“Duet in the Little Blue Church” – Twin Cities

Book jacket for From working-class family life to the grueling story of pioneers arriving on the Midwestern prairie, Sharon Chmielarz’s poetry spans time and place. After four decades and 13 poetry collections, she presents a representative selection of her wide-ranging poetic interests and imagination in “Duet in the Little Blue Church: New and Selected Poems” (Nodin Press, $19.95).

Chmielarz will host a launch party for the book at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 26, at Open Book, 1022 Washington Ave. S., Mpls. It is free and open to the public.

This South Dakota-born poet has been applauded by literary stars, including Joyce Carol Oates (“Pretty Lovely Poetry”).

Sharon Chmielarz (Lost Lake Photography)

Chmielarz’s publisher points out that her poems are often related “in a wry and enigmatic conversational style” comparable to modern Polish masters such as Szymborska and Milosz. The European element is strong, but so is the immigrant experience on the Great Plains.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Chmielarz’s first two books “Different Arrangements” and “But I Won’t Go Out in a Boat” were awarded New Rivers Press’ Minnesota Voices awards. “The Second Mozart” was made into an opera. Her works have been published in national literary and review journals.

Here’s the collection’s title poem, which shows why Chmielarz says “My relationship with my own father is/was possibly the biggest driving force that first got me into writing.”

listening to him

you’d think the two of us were singing

the way the saved sing,

makes the connection

between loss and love,

holding his music,

breaking stars,

my father’s bass to my alto.

listening to him

one would believe sorrow

our lighthouse,

joy, the rose

light over snow.

You would even have to believe

disappointment –

sitting in the back seat,

frozen from the forehead –

had opened his mouth, like an echo.

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